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Famous Musicians Who Started their Career in the Church

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

Some of the most famous musicians in pop history got their head start in the church. It’s probably not surprising that many of the most famous R&B singers trace their musical origins to the church. Many popular artists began their musical careers in the church choir before breaking into mainstream music. Here are some of the famous musicians who started their careers in the church.

Whitney Houston

Regarded as one of the greatest singers of all time, Whitney Houston captured the world with her dynamic voice with her first two studio albums, Whitney Houston and Whitney. Both albums peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and are among the best-selling albums of all time. The R&B/pop diva had her start in the church.

She got her first introduction to music through gospel music, singing in the church choir. She had never shied away from speaking of her faith throughout her career. She also released several Gospel albums including the soundtrack for the 1996 film The Preacher’s Wife, in which she starred. The soundtrack for the film turned out to be the best-selling gospel album of all time.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin is the daughter of Reverend C.L. Franklin of the New Bethel Baptist congregation in Detroit. She was dubbed the Queen of Soul has won several Grammy awards with memorable hits like I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You, Respect, Chain of Fools, I Say a Little Prayer, and many more. Franklin’s church-raised voice was not limited to R&B or soul music. She released albums focused on the church with the critically acclaimed Amazing Grace in 1972 and followed up with One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism in 1987.

Justin Timberlake

Many people think that Justin Timberlake got his head start with his singing career in the Mickey Mouse Club and as a member of ‘N Sync. But he actually began singing as a little boy in the church. Raised in the Baptist church, he began performing in the church choir when his father was the choir director of the church.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye met Motown label founder Berry Gordy in the early 1960s and worked with the label as a drummer and singer before embarking on a successful solo career that would lead him to become a powerhouse pop/soul act with spectacular hits such as Ain’t that Peculiar, How Sweet It Is to Be Loved, and I Heard it Through the Grapevine. His career was marked by a series of concerns about the human experience of having survived abuse from his father in his youth. His father was a reverend in Washington D.C. and Gaye sang in the church at an early age.

Gaye’s short life ended when he was shot in the chest by his father in 1984 when he intervened in a fight between his parents in the family house in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.

Donna Summer

You might be surprised that Disco Queen Donna Summer began her singing career at the Grant AME Church in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bostonian’s vocals could fit smoothly into a number of genres and began a solo recording career with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. She made hits such as Last Dance, Hot Stuff and I Feel Love. She ended the 70s with the album Bad Girls and a greatest hits collection while embracing her Christian roots. She died in 2014.

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